Thursday, May 7, 2015

Black Trans Advocacy

I am so pumped about the conference that I attended in Dallas, Tx. First, let me start off by saying that I have never been to Dallas before and it was simply amazing. Vast, beautiful and complex. Reminding me of all people and their journeys. We were all living a shared extraordinary experience which includes being Black. It was amazing to me to see so many trans, trans-loving, and allies together learning and building community! Black Trans Advocacy has two major sub-groups; Black transmen and Black transwomen. There are chapters in cities all over the world however; they are small. Texas has a large LGBTQPIA population and this conference is received with open arms.


The welcoming ceremony set the tone for the entire week. I met Mr. and Mrs. Brown who had the vision to bring the black trans community together four years ago. When you look at them you see their love and dedication. 
 
The sessions offered ranged from health and insurance to children living with parents who have transitioned. I was very pleased with the amount of knowledge I gained. The session that stood out most to me was about insurance coverage. To some people, insurance is the major factor keeping them from living as their true self. In this session, we were given sample insurance packets and learned how to read through exclusions and which codes are most important.

Mr. Vann and his daughters
Trans-lives Matter Balloon
Ceremony
There are older men and women of the trans experience who have been living a "normal" life raising children, going to school and advocating for the next generation. There is a guy, Vann, who brought his wife and two daughters. They are a beautiful family. His two daughters lead their own session called "Living on the other side of "T"'. It was amazing. They have been raised in the family for 12 years and have seen the transition of their father and family first hand. I must say that these young ladies were far beyond their years. Not to mention that they are from Baltimore. While we are all there building community and friendship and family, their home was the scene of civil unrest. Marching, protesting and eventually violence played out in response to the corrupt "justice" system.

This conference left a very profound effect on me. Most spaced harp on intersectionalism and how no one part of an identity is more than the other. Being a Black transman in different spaces I've noticed that being Black is usually looked over unless the topic is murder by white cop or drugs.  The spaces usually don't look at everyday struggles for Black trans* people. This conference showed me the other side. We started sessions and meetings by calling in our ancestors and paying homage. I was able to meet and connect with people who transitioned over 50 years ago. we were all in awe of each other and proud that we made it. I think that the unspoken thing here was also that we were all Black and we needed to plant seeds and grow.


The greatest lesion gained from this experience is that visibility means the world to those who are seeking love and acceptance. I learned that sometimes you have to just be present and the rest will fall into place. I can use this knowledge for anything in the future.






Saturday, March 28, 2015

Liberty in North Korea Presentation - Monday, 3/30, 3:00PM

RAPP welcomes Liberty in North Korea back to UC this Monday, 3/30/2015, at 3:00PM in the 6th Floor Open Space of Steger Student Life Center! Find this event on Campus LINK and Facebook.

From LiNK:

The international narrative on North Korea has created an environment of fear and isolation. This disempowers ordinary North Koreans, who have nothing to do with the political circus.

We are launching an exciting NEW initiative this spring to give millions of people the opportunity to send a personal message of support TO: the North Korean people.

Our goal is to show North Koreans that the world is united in support for them. We need YOU to change the narrative on North Korea by adding your community's voice of support to our collective message.

This event includes:

Multimedia Presentation
LiNK events are engaging and educational presentations. We use a combination of speaking, videos, audience interaction and photos to connect audiences to the people behind the stories and provide a comprehensive look at North Korea. This event is unique and offers a look at North Korea most people have never had.

Questions & Answers
We give you the opportunity to ask any questions and get answers from our highly trained representatives. The purpose of these presentations is to not only educate but also connect with you and your community.

Get Involved Table
LiNK Nomads will invite anyone who's interested to visit with us to learn more about how to get involved. This is a great time for those interested to have deeper discussions about the issue, buy merchandise to support the work LiNK does, and find out more about how you can stand alongside the North Korea people.


Sunday, March 15, 2015

Snapshots of the Soul


 

Hello out there! Its been a while since I last checked in but don't you fret. I'm bringing you news of celebration from the heart of the right for all American citizens to vote; Selma. Last weekend, I was able to travel down to Selma, AL with Pastor Peter and the Wesley House. Before this trip, I wasn't familiar with that organization but let me first say this, Ms. Becky, the house mother at the Wesley House, is a beautiful soul. I am so thankful to have been able to meet her and allow her spirit to minister to me. I was also glad to meet Pastor Peter who was like meeting a familiar friend that was always there but didn't have a name or face...
Well, enough of that! This journey with this amazing group of people could not be more perfect. This trip was called "Snapshots of the Soul" and with good reason. We were asked to think long and hard about where we were individually and as a people. We were asked what bridges were we crossing and what is holding us back.
 
For two days, we were totally submersed in a historical walk back in time. We visited the home site of Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth as well as Bethel Baptist Church which served as the headquarters to many movements within the civil rights era. As moving as this was, the next site upped the "anty" on emotional disarray. The bombing of 16th Baptist Church really forced America to open its eyes and see the cruelty carried out on its citizens. From there, we saw The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. This had the biggest impact on me because it highlighted things from this era that we rarely see. There were entire cities of African Americans thriving and creating better futures for their children but most importantly, the generations that follow. 

Facilitator Break
 

After these first three events, our group became a lot more vocal about the issues at hand. I felt like this was a perfect time to ask some questions and get a few reactions from folks. Because I knew that these words, sights and images would trigger everyone in different ways, it was important for me to stay neutral to allow my respondents to feel safe in their emotions. We were all introduced to the notion of having a love that forgives. I asked questions specific to this idea to see if the answers would have similarities.
 
Being involved with RAPP has given me the tools I needed to take myself out of the equation and be passionate to other peoples ideas. Meeting people where they are is big. It says that we all have the capacity to see beyond ourselves through someone else's lens. I was also glad to bring the knowledge gained from Kingian Non-violence Training. I felt like I was a part of something much greater that the older people already knew and that I was just learning.
 
 To see the places and witness the climate that  fueled civil rights is breath taking. Standing in the exact spot commemorating the 50th anniversary of the successful march across the Edmond Pettus Bridge can only be compared to winning a prize that you didn't know you were competing for.
My fellow RAPPer's made this trip unbelievable as well. I felt like we were training all year for the moment to see a piece of living history and stand together. As we crossed the bridge. there were cries of joy and jubilation through the crowd. I was glad to have shared this event with everyone present and in my heart.
 

 
 
 
 
 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

My Disabilities

Okay, Brice also asked me to write up a quick blog about how I felt this semester while co-oping and dealing with my physical and mental problems.  It was rough, I can easily tell you that much.  I would wake up in the middle of the night, gasping for air and coughing like crazy.  (It was a lucky thing that most of the time, I managed to wake myself before I peed myself.  But when you cough that hard and can't stop it, that's what eventually happens.  Then you have to add changing the sheets to the mix.  Oh joy!)  Anyways, I'd go running for my inhaler.  Well, okay, not running.  Stumbling.  Or crawling if it was too bad.  I'd use the damned thing till I was shaking.  (It's a lovely side effect, shaking.  Eventually, you can't even hold the inhaler right anymore.)  Then you'd be up for several hours trying to get rid of it.  Can't write right, can't type right, can't highlight right… 
Boy, you want to talk about frustrating!!!  I had two attacks at work, both of which I was all over right away.  If you can nip it in the bud, they're not that bad.  But I tend to wake up with them, and that's hard because it's already established by the time you start to treat it.  Luckily, I only had to go into the hospital once and that was early on.  But then I'm running on three hours sleep at work and have trouble focusing.  It makes it really hard to cope with. 
Luckily, Siemens has a lounge chair in the bathroom, so I could clock out and take a nap if I needed one.  Unfortunately, this led to a situation where a co-worker of mine reported to my boss that I was taking a nap every day, which was untrue.  Then I had three of my bosses being all concerned about me (bleh, I hated that, cause there's nothing anyone can do about it) and the fourth (thank God) was practical.  He said, "I don't care if you DO take a nap, as long as you're not on the clock."  God bless him!!  So I combed through my time cards and showed him the dates and times I clocked out to take a nap.  He was satisfied that I wasn't doing it on the clock and that was a relief.  He saw I was taking a nap once a week or less, and I was clocking out for them.  Also, on days I took a nap, he could see I was working later to make my eight hours.  That really helped.
I think the reason I had so many problems is that I was moving more than I did when I had classes, and the stress level was much higher.  As I said in my previous blog, trips to the bathroom and cafeteria were much longer than trips to the bathroom/kitchen are here.  (I have a one bedroom apartment, y'all.  There's not a long walk in the place!!)  Plus the roughly two hundred yard walk to and from my desk in the am.  And I had to leave my desk daily to go to meetings in different parts of the building.
Also, for me anyways, working was much more stressful than school.  With school, I can schedule my classes to fit my convenience.  Work is at someone else's convenience.  I hate getting up in the AM, and I was getting up at six every day so I could leave for work by seven.  Then I was often coming home, getting food (often purchased at McDonald's at the base of the Western Hills Viaduct, as it was on my way home and it takes me a while to cook anything), and getting a bath.  Then homework for a bit (on some days, when I hadn't worked late), and off to bed at eight thirty or nine.  It was horrible for someone like me.  (I'm a natural born night owl.  As a child, and I'm talking three or four, I would go in my closet, close the door, turn on the light, and then I would read till midnight or one.  This semester, I'm taking all online classes because of my asthma, and I rarely go to bed before four or five am.  That's my body's natural circadian rhythm.  Going against it is a very stressful thing.)
Over the course of the semester, I missed twelve days and was late by ten minutes or less five times.  It was ridiculously difficult to become organized.  My workspace was nicely organized, and I busted my ass to make sure I made forty hours per week.  (I missed that twice, once over the Thanksgiving holiday when they gave us several days off (Wed, Thurs, and Fri) and once during the last week of work when my breathing took a sudden and so far unexplained turn for the worse.  Otherwise, I stayed extra to make sure I had my forty.
I have no idea how my next co-op will go, either.  Heck, at this point, I don't know if I'll HAVE a second co-op.  It really depends on how the pulmonary test goes next month, and how the doctor treats whatever is truly wrong with me.  So I'm currently in a holding pattern.  It's very frustrating to not be in control of yourself like I am.  It's intensely frustrating that I can't just go somewhere.  I have to build in extra time, and it's never a sure thing.  Some days I get to my car, hack and wheeze for fifteen minutes, and then go back to the house and cancel my appointment.  It's awful.  Brice and I are playing phone tag to discuss what options I have open to me, and we can best serve the University Community.  Hopefully, we'll get together soon and be able to work out something.  Cause this sitting at home all the time really sucks.  I have terrible cabin fever, too.  I want to go out somewhere (anywhere) so badly…

Anyways, I'm going to go ahead and call this blog done.  It's long enough, God knows!!  I wish y'all a good night.  I hope you all have had a good weekend so far, and I wish you a good Sunday.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Blog about Co-op and RAPP

          Hi folks.  I started this blog about three or four weeks ago, and then never got back to it.  So I'm starting all over again.  (I didn't like the way what I wrote came together, and I thought it'd be easier to rewrite it than fix it.  So I deleted what I have, and I'm starting over.)  Break is now over and we're back to school.  This is only the second week, but already I'm behind, so I'm not sure how the semester will go.  At least I'm only behind in one class, so that's a bonus.  (I'm only taking two, for reasons which you'll soon see.)  Anyways, Brice wanted me to write a sort of reflections post about my experience co-oping AND working for RAPP.  So here goes.
          I had difficulty with my co-op.  Mornings are very stressful for me, and I hate them.  It makes getting up hard, especially in the winter when the bathroom floor is soooooooo cold.  Brrrrr…  Anyways, I had a lot of challenges to overcome.  My asthma and Irritable Bowel Syndrome both act up when I'm stressed.  I missed a lot of work.  I counted it all out a few days before the end, and I'd missed 10 ½ days of work.  I missed one more day and a half at in the last week so a total of twelve days in sixteen or seventeen weeks.  My breathing was terrible.  (I also missed a lot of time in the RAPP office because of this.  I worked late on other days at Siemens to make up what I missed, so I was often in the office till six or seven after starting before eight am.  Many days I came home whipped, grabbed a bite to eat, took my meds, and went to get ready for bed.)  It was very hard for me to deal with the stress of a full time job.  I was always hurrying to get something done.  So it was a hard time for me.  It doesn't help that I was doing a lot more walking then I was used to.  (Four trips to the bathroom a day at forty to fifty yards away, plus a trip to and from the cafeteria at about a hundred yards away, plus a trip to and from the car at about two hundred yards, and that adds up to a lot of potential asthma attacks.) 
          To top things off, my stress rate went through the roof right after Thanksgiving.  We had to watch a training on Sexual Harassment in the workplace, and it brought back a whole bunch of bad memories.  I had a coworker who used to tell one of our customers that I liked him and wanted to go out with him.  He must have asked me out seventy or eighty times.  The coworker was the assistant manager, and pretty much had free rein.  The manager told me to just stay out of sight when he came into the store.  That was his solution.  So I started going in the back room.  She promptly told him I was primping for him.  I had a boyfriend, and she told the man my boyfriend abused me and I needed someone to help me get away from him.  (No signs of abuse.  No bruises, no wearing long sleeves in the summer, nada.  But he believed every word.  I really was pissed at her for throwing him at me.)  Anyways, the more stressed I got, the more mistakes I made.  Finally, they fired me, and I got away from him.  I used to have nightmares about meeting him elsewhere in the city.  I stayed away from that part of town for a LONG, LONG time.  I still don't go there unless I have to, and she no longer works in that part of town and he's probably dead.  He was older than my dad, so…
          But all the stress really has taken a toll on me.  It's a little better now.  I'm still having nightmares about the guy finding me somehow, but…  It's not like it's going to happen, but it still stresses me.  I'm to the point now, with my asthma or whatever it is, that I can't walk ten feet to the bathroom without wheezing.  I was like that my last three days of work at Siemens, and I don't know how I got through. 
          And I'm still having some stress problems.  I can't go to the grocery without the help of a motorized wheelchair cart.  I can't get to my car without having to use my inhaler.  I'm having severe cabin fever from staying in so much.  I've been depressed.  I feel like there's nothing I can do for RAPP in this state, which is not true at all.  There are still things I can do.  I'm doing one of them right now.  I also have several sets of papers to transcribe for RAPP XXX, and I told Brice we need to sit down and discuss that.  (Someday we'll be free at the same time to discuss what my options are.  I hope, lol.  We've been playing phone tag for a few days now.)  But I need to get to feeling better, and my doctor needs the test from the hospital on the fourth.  So until then, I'll be working from home.
          It was interesting how different my two jobs were.  And how alike they became…  I was supposed to be a programmer for Siemens.  Unfortunately, they found out how anal retentive I am about things being exactly right.  So they set me on a new project.  I had to edit and screenshot the user manual for the software we were working on.  Out of the sixteen or seventeen weeks, I only coded for four of them, tops.  And what I was doing for RAPP was writing blogs, reading the book, and transcribing things for RAPP XXX.  So they ended up being similar.  It was hard for me to keep going in to do something that helps me not at all in my career as a programmer, but I stuck with it.  I got quite a bit of work done, but still, it took a long time and I had almost no time for programming.  I learned a new structure, and that's the only programming thing I learned.  Oh, and I got a small bit of experience using the Google Web Toolkit.  That's all the programming I learned at Siemens.  It's frustrating.  On the one hand, I knew it needed to be done and I was the best person for the job.  On the other hand, it wasn't what I was supposed to be doing.
          On the other hand, I've learned a lot about facilitation from Brice and from The Art of Effective Facilitation.  So I guess it's all good there.  Now it's getting the practice needed to really become a good facilitator.  I really wish we could reserve a room somewhere on the edges of campus for RAPPORT meetings.  I could get there more easily if we could.  I have a handicap placard, so I can park on campus.  But the places I can park are all far away from the student lounge in Steger, so I'm not in the best of shape when it comes to that.  Maybe this test will tell what's wrong with me before too much longer, and I can then start some kind of therapy to fix it.  That'd be nice. 
          I'm going to go ahead and post this now, and then I'll get around to the other one later.  Y'all have a good night, and I wish you the best of luck.  I'll try and get the other blog done soon, so you'll have something else to read besides this, even though it's long!!!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Starting off the New Year from the Foundation: Chapter 1 The Art of Effective Facilitation

Even though this is the first chapter to the book, I think that reading it at the beginning of the New Year is a great time to explore the foundations of social justice and what our work with RAPP really stems from. Social Justice is a term that is often mistaken under other names; people use it interchangeably with terms such as diversity, inclusion and multiculturalism. The Art of Effective Facilitation defines social justice in the context of higher education currently as recognizing and ridding this system of its institutionalized privilege and discrimination.  Though the authors do add to this definition later in the chapter, I think that it is imperative to point out another definition that is simply in the root of the term. We are talking about social justice, so one must distinguish that social justice is also aims to teach and heal issues of equity, diversity, prejudice, and discrimination at the social level not just the institutional level.
One of the reasons why I think my definition includes this at its core is something that I learned from this chapter which is the evolution of social justice to grow to what we know it as today. It started as simply admitting non-white schools into places of higher education. Those efforts moved from just the simple allowance and admittance of the students, but to the representation of these students by creating systematic policies to give equal opportunity to all students. From representation grew for support of the growing number of students of color on campuses. Support would include things places such as the African American Cultural and Research Center and monies to help fund their tuition. Lastly, in the evolution of social justice we have the assimilation of all of these cultures in with each other to create an environment conducive to learning and assuaging prejudice and stereotyping. Social justice is more than just a numbers game, it has grown to include many different multitudes to teach and change the existing ailments that can hinder (in this setting) our places of higher education from being multicultural environments.
            In some ways, each of these efforts have fallen short. In other words, I mean that even though social justice has evolved. This applies to my personal experience with the RAPP program, especially as a facilitator, because in the group and in our workshops we really touch on every aspect of the evolution of social justice. From the modules we teach and the testimonies from RAPP members, I can assert that we still have a long ways to go at the University of Cincinnati in each of those aspects from the most basic numbers game to a social prejudices and stereotyping. Although, this sounds like something to be sad about, it is also motivation to continue things like RAPP and work like it on campus. The fact of the matter is: we have work to do. 


Monday, January 5, 2015

Building a Framework For Social Justice Education

Building a healthy framework for social justice is more than just a notion. It takes time, dedication and understanding. This chapter begins forcing me to look at my experiences in social justice involvement. I had to consider my emotions as I was going through the activities, protest and other outings. Well, the "educators journey" can only be described as growth both personally an within the communities that you serve. That is; if you are serious about building this safe place for social justice to flourish. These grass root issues are about forcing yourself to be valuable know that the process of teaching others will be the plot form which you are taught.

Looking at my experiences as a facilitator, I see a few of my major flaws in my thinking and reaction that can only be addressed by really submerging myself into the core components that govern social justice education. Before, I was a participant. I could just listen or ignore other people's opinion. I was more concerned with others hearing what I had to say and changing their opinions to mirror mine. it never really occurred to me that their narrative reflected who they were and where they stood. Now, I have to listen. I have to be impartial and I have to genuinely care about what is being said and in what context is it said. I use my own education and my own experiences to be transparent and open enough that other feel like they can learn in a safe environment.

Before a conversation can occur; everyone must be on the same page (i.e define key terms in Social Justice). Some may say that this is a given but this one of the most important things we are fighting for and what concepts we are fighting against.

There are three types of oppression:

  1. Institutional: Social institutions such as education, politics, media,economy, healthcare, religion, family etc.
  2. Cultural: Societal norms, values, icons, ideologies, aesthetics, lore, jokes, music pop culture and shared beliefs.
  3. Individual: Personal beliefs, behaviors and interpersonal interactions.

Without this knowledge; it is hard to gage if the conversation is progressing successfully or are tensions rising.